Sirens Are Screaming And The Fires Are Howling Way Down In The Valley Tonight

Today I have been trying to watch M. Night Shyamalan’s Devil.  I say trying, because I really can’t sustain my willing suspension of disbelief.

It’s not the supernatural elements that I have a problem with.  You say that the Devil is on an elevator in a Philadelphia high rise, okay, I’ll buy that.  I would expect to find him in Chicago, managing the Blackhawks, but he could be a Flyer’s fan, too.

The problem I have is in how people react to the situation.  To be honest, my problems started pretty early, with a scene only peripherally related to the main story line.  There is a broken window, on the 30th-something floor and the building’s maintenance man is working on “fixing” it.

First off, you got a 50-something story building and one maintenance man? On a weekday? You have at least a half dozen security guards (I’ve seen that many) but your entire building engineering department is one man.  God forbid they should have a clogged toilet and a burned out light bulb at the same time.

Second, what the heck is he going to do?  Pull a 6×8 slab of tempered glass out of his butt? Replacing something like that is not something you do in-house.  You put a sheet of plywood over it and call the experts, who will probably have to custom cut it, then rig a hoist from the roof.  Odds are you’d have to get a permit to block off the street below in order to do the work.  This isn’t a “I got some duct tape and a couple of sheet metal screws” kind of job.

Moving right along, you have a security guard who is delivering a package to an upper floor and doesn’t bring a radio with him. Excuse me?  Wearing your radio is second nature, because you never know what’s going to happen.  He’s up on floor 39 and someone on 37 needs an escort out of the building, and he doesn’t find out about it until he’s back at the lobby desk.  Yeah, that’s efficient.

Well, you say, he’s new.  Then he’s definitely going to bring his radio, because what if he gets up to the floor and the firm he’s looking for isn’t there?  Suppose the package is mislabeled, or the firm moved?

Okay, so the elevator stopped.  (This much you’ll get from the trailers, I won’t say anything more to avoid spoilers.  Not that I know all that many, I haven’t gotten very far.)   The guards send Mr. Lone Maintenance Guy up to the rooftop mechanical room to “fix” it.

Excuse me, but don’t you have a service contract with a real elevator company?  And don’t they give priority to calls that involve trapped riders?  And has anyone even considered using a key to open the freakin’ doors from the outside and let the people out? 

And what does he do to fix it?  Turns off the power to the lights and turns it back on.  The lights?  Um, the lighting circuit is 110 volts, probably 20 amps–same as you got for office lighting.  The elevator motor, on the other hand (you know, that thing that’s not working right now?) is a completely separate circuit, because you don’t lift a ton of car and passengers fifty-odd floors on freakin’ house current! 

Meanwhile, on the ground floor, housekeeping is cheerfully sweeping up the glass from the broken window.  The broken window that still has a dozen shards of glass in the frame that could come loose and fall at any moment.  Don’t bother putting up caution tape around the area–being speared by a shard of tempered glass at terminal velocity is good for you!

I want to like this movie.  I do like the cinematography and the music, and pacing, and what little of the characters I’ve met so far.  But I can’t like it if I can’t believe it, and I’m not going to believe that the Devil is in Philadelphia unless you make me believe in Philadelphia first. 

And that means, do your research.  Find out what the logical staffing of a skyscraper is, what their procedures in the event of an elevator failure are, how these things work and what people do when they don’t work.  In a film with an estimated ten million dollar budget this is simply unforgivable.

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About MishaBurnett

I am the author of "Catskinner's Book", a science fiction novel available on Amazon Kindle. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B008MPNBNS
This entry was posted in On Writing, Who I am and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Sirens Are Screaming And The Fires Are Howling Way Down In The Valley Tonight

  1. Oh man! I thought this was going to be about Meatloaf music.

  2. Sue says:

    funny – thanks for the laugh

    here’s a review of the “film” which doesn’t mention your concerns but it should

    • MishaBurnett says:

      No, that review doesn’t mention my concerns because it was written by someone who hasn’t had the kind of job that would have exposed him to the nuts and bolts of how buildings work.

  3. sknicholls says:

    We see this in books also. My husband and I entertain ourselves by reading each other some of the outrageous implausible stupidity. I’m with you. Make me believe it’s Philadelphia first! Then bring on the all the paranormal, science fiction, fantasy stuff ya got.

  4. Sadly too many movies, and books, miss the small details (or some really huge ones) that would make the entire premise they’re trying to push on us at least plausible if not believable.

  5. LindaGHill says:

    I find it interesting – and so true! – that we can easily believe the supernatural parts of a story and yet screw up the stuff that should be factual and the rest is ruined. And it usually just takes one or two little things. What you’ve described though is major, and something most people would ‘get.’ Incredible. In every sense of the word.

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